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    Building a Culture of Accountability
    The Vault

    Building a Culture of Accountability

    July 2016

    Accountability is at the center of nearly every business book on the market, yet every day in the workplace managers fail to lead on this key issue. In preparation for this piece, I read numerous accounts from business owners and managers on the topic of accountability.  Nearly every one contained quotes like, ““In our organization, no one wants to hold others accountable for their actions,” or, “Managers take the blame for errors rather than confront the employees who made the mistakes.”  Such comments expose managers who are too timid to face conflict and hold staff accountable. Worse, these managers don’t even come close to holding themselves accountable for the job they were hired to do.  No business can thrive in such an environment.

    In her book Fearless Leadership, Loretta Malandro, PhD., says that, for a business to grow and change, there must be a culture of 100 percent accountability. Malandro defines this as “being personally accountable for business results and your impact on people, even when others accept zero accountability.” She also notes that everyone in an organization must accept and share that commitment, no matter at what level they sit.  Can you imagine if your business ran like this?

    A culture of non-accountability, even in seemingly small matters, lessens your standing as the leader of your business.  This hurts your reputation with your employees and will ultimately cost you customers as the quality of work produced by your employees declines. Avoiding “bad” behaviors like shirking responsibility yourself isn’t enough.  You have to proactively encourage responsible behavior in your organization -- all day, everyday. Essentially, you must build a culture of accountability.

    How? Consider this four-step approach:

    1. Create an elevator pitch.

    Just as you have an elevator pitch for potential customers and contacts-- a short summary of your business that allows you to communicate your work in the span of a short elevator ride -- so too should you have a short pitch that will persuade your employees that a standup culture is an important goal.  This is essential, because we don’t live in a culture that typically values accountability.  You literally need to sell the idea of accountability to your employees, and a compelling, short pitch about how it will benefit all is the way to do that.

    2. Create guidelines.

    What does it actually mean to be accountable? Different people will have different ideas, so you need to set some specific rules in place for your organization.

    For example, a manufacturing company might have accountability guidelines that include the statement, ‘Our product does not ship until we have tested it and ensured its quality.’ This kind of statement simplifies the decision making process at the final level (distribution).  If the product isn’t good, it doesn’t ship.  And the person making that decision can do so with confidence.

    3. Make accountability an ongoing process.

    Whatever you do, don't write a set of guidelines, hang them on the wall, and consider the job done. That’s utterly meaningless.  Instead, make a point of weaving accountability into every aspect of your business so that it becomes part of the culture.  Interview for accountability when you hire people, and put accountability into your performance review system as well, never promoting employees that reach their goals at their co-workers’ expense.  Speak of accountability with as much frequency and passion as you do sales goals.  

    4. Lead by example.

    Once you’ve ensured that your employees understand what you expect of them, hold yourself to the same high standard. Follow through on your promises, own up to your mistakes, and give feedback  -- even when it isn't easy. You have incredible influence over your business.  Use it wisely.

    Do not overlook accountability.  It’s an integral piece of your company’s success.

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